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Year of the Hakken-Kraks: How Dr. Suess Impacted Me
Dear Dr. Seuss
The Kindergarten experience consists of forty three percent doodling, seventeen percent of sitting criss-cross apple sauce on a cracker crumb riddled carpet, eighteen percent of having your hair pulled by the boy who is insistent on sending you to an early grave, and twenty two percent of wondering why your classmate persists to eat paste even when you’ve told him it isn’t food. When asked about Kindergarten, many see it as a fun and interesting point in their childhood. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always add up to be one hundred percent enjoyable. Even if you have the sixty four pack of crayons with the sharpener. I was one of the few whose experience adds up to be anything but. There was not one shade of blue that could capture the essence of how I felt in all of Crayola’s history.
Kindergarten was the first time I experienced the dark, cruel side of the real world. Before I read Oh, the Places You’ll Go, I was panic stricken when it came to going somewhere new or changing something. Leaving home and going to school was the very epitome of both. The very first day of school was similar to the birth of a new baby elephant. The baby drops from nine feet, crashes to the ground, and is brought into this new, confusing world, without a clue as to what is going on. Only learning by example of the mother, instincts, and gut feelings. Sometimes, if the baby won’t stand up, the mother elephant has to resort to pushing her baby to get up. Then, the baby, stumbling in a daze, full of confusion of the world around him, has no other option but to move forward. I related to the baby elephant.
I was entirely overwhelmed with the people, situations, and changing environment around me. I found a temporary security when I was at home with my family and around all the same familiarities. When I went to school, it was as if I was snatched from a warm safe haven and tossed to vicious dogs. In time, those dogs’ bite wounds tore into me. The abrupt change made me lose my inner stability. I couldn’t perform the simplest of tasks. The concept of over and under was too difficult for my mind to grasp. The only words I knew how to spell were ‘cat’ and ‘zoo.’ Other kids avoided me because as a boy once told me:
“You have cooties!”
However, there was one wound which never seemed to cease. No matter how hard I tried, I could never do anything right. The simple mistakes I committed would plague me along with the reprimands of others to pay attention. I felt useless. The expectant looks of the people around me whether it be classmate or teacher mostly thought the same of me:
How will she mess up this time?
The constant worries of making these mistakes bred a threatening fear. The fear of not ever being able to amount to anything. Failure. This recurring fear led to the degeneration of my confidence. After a while, I started to believe it, and like a black hole, it started to consume me. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I remember it clearly.
The racket of the classroom dies down as the cattle calls of the teacher reaches them.
“Story time! Hurry up and sit criss-cross apple sauce on the mat. Hurry!”
The sound of shuffling feet was heard in response, the equivalent of cow bells, as they make their way to the carpet. After the herd is seated, the speaker who came to read to them proceeds to tell them her name and why she is here, which is immediately lost on short attention spans. She pulls a book out of her giant bag and holds it up for everyone to see. The colorful look of the cover catches their eyes as they take in the character in yellow standing atop the colorful mountain.
One girl in particular takes in every detail as the speaker opens to the first page and begins to read. The kids listening, listen in awe, eyes the size of dinner plates, as they are sucked into a world of Hakken-Kraks, waiting places, and right-and-three-corner-turns…
The day Oh, the Places You’ll Go, was read to me, I changed. I realized I wasn’t the only one in this world who sometimes feels lost, scared, and alone. I realized, contrary to what I believed at the time, that I CAN amount to something. Regardless of what others think. This book taught me that you need to take the first step in order to reach your mountain, and often that first step requires leaving the familiar behind to reach the unfamiliar. Today, I still covet this book like a treasure, and its words wrap around me like a security blanket and urge me to move forward, despite what might be ahead.
So, with parting words, I’ll end with a wise quotation I once read.
“So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’ Shea, you’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!” - Dr. Seuss
An empowered reader